Hearts captain Perry Kitchen was rested and not dropped for the weekend win at Motherwell, head coach Ian Cathro explained today.
The American midfielder had played four games in ten days – including a 120-minute outing against Raith Rovers in the Scottish Cup fourth-round replay – and Cathro decided he needed a break.
Don Cowie took the armband at Fir Park as recent signings Malaury Martin and Alex Tziolis started in central midfield. Kitchen was on the bench and replaced Martin for the last 27 minutes of Hearts’ 3-0 win.
Cathro stressed that he was merely protecting his skipper by leaving him out.
“We now have more midfield players and Perry put in a tremendous effort, full of energy and intensity, last Wednesday against Rangers,” Cathro told the Evening News.
“We wanted to try and manage the minutes of our midfield players so we could keep the energy levels up on Saturday. I think the way the game played out showed us that.
“This is something we need to do. We wanted a strong squad so that we can do those things. Everyone is in it together. There can be no overreaction.
“We’ve played five games in 13 days, one of those games was 120 minutes. Maybe if we’d had more time, or some guys had been here longer, there could’ve been other changes to the team. We are a squad and we want to have competition in there.”
Cathro declared himself satisfied with the work done to recruit nine new players in January, including Tziolis and Martin. The 4-1 win against Rangers and convincing triumph in Lanarkshire were partly down to the influence of the new arrivals.
“That was always going to be the case because we had a light squad. It was unbalanced in terms of what we wanted inside the squad. The work over January was always going to take place, no matter what,” added Cathro. “What’s pleasing at this point is how everybody has focused on the collective effort, embraced everything and everybody. We’ve worked well together.”